The Joy of Returning Gifts


On Christmas Eve, I drove with my wife, three kids, and one granddaughter a few hours to Los Angeles for a 2-day Christmas with my parents and siblings. We drove a few hours back home to welcome my sister-in-law for a 4-day visit. That was followed by hosting a holiday party for 35 of my closest friends. I spent New Year’s Eve at a dive bar. And just last night I had a teary goodbye dinner with a best friend who was visiting from far away. I can now start, in earnest, my holiday hangover.

We’ll take down the ornaments from the tree, box up the stockings and garlands on the mantel, and take down the mistletoe hanging near the front door. There are a few other things to take care of, the biggest of which is the day set aside for gift returns. If you’re like me, this is a mind-numbing process of standing in long lines to give back what didn’t fit, was the wrong color, or just wasn’t “the right style.” I’m always glad when gift return day is over. It comes to an immediate end. I walk out without the load I carried in, and I don’t have to think about it for another year.

Did you know that 5 billion pounds of returned items end up in landfills? That’s according to Optoro, which is a company that helps retailers process their returns. Optoro says that each year, consumers return about $380 billion worth of products. $90 billion of that is done during the holiday.

An article on the CNN Money website says, “Once a product is returned, the retailer has to foot the cost for assessing the item and repackaging it. A like-new item or piece of clothing might be able to be resold at full cost. But most returns are used or damaged.

A recent retail survey found that less than half of all goods can be resold at full cost. And if it’s cheaper for the retailer to throw out returned goods rather than try to resell them, they end up in the trash.

The returns process has become even more complicated as people continue to shop online.”

Approximately half of returns get put back on store shelves. About a quarter of returns go back to the manufacturer. Then it gets down to the nitty-gritty with returned items going to secondary retailers, liquidators, wholesalers, and then pawnshops and dollar stores.

Say it again. 5 billion pounds of returned items end up in landfills. Add that to the list of ingredients for my holiday hangover. MSW_bug_web


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